Explosive found in Panera prompts evacuation in NW Fresno
A man who allegedly carried an explosive device into a Panera Bread restaurant Wednesday night had prior bomb-related charges and suicidal intentions, according to information released Thursday by Fresno police.
Chad Mazgedian, 43, is facing charges that include use and possession of an explosive and destructive device, evading police and hit and run, following a bomb scare at a northwest Fresno business complex.
He was already wanted on several other charges, including assault with a deadly weapon, resisting arrest, dissuading a witness and bomb-making attempts, according to Lt. Mark Hudson. It was those prior charges that brought police officers with a search warrant to Mazgedian’s home Wednesday morning.
Officers arrived to the 2100 block of South Villa Avenue with an arrest warrant, but Mazgedian was not home. Officers entered the home with the warrant and discovered bomb-making materials, according to police.
Police put out an alert on Mazgedian and the vehicle he was driving. Around 7:16 p.m., U.S. Marshals spotted Mazgedian driving in the area of Bullard and Carnegie avenues. Hudson said Mazgedian fled from patrol officers when they attempted to make a stop, and officers lost sight of him.
A short time later, 911 calls reported a suspicious vehicle in the area of Shaw and Marty avenues. Hudson said Mazgedian had abandoned the vehicle, which crashed into other cars at the shopping center.
Police officers swarmed the area around 8 p.m. But Mazgedian had ran away and fled into a Panera Bread restroom. Hudson said officers went inside the restaurant and made attempts to get Mazgedian out, even wrestling him to the ground.
Police believe Mazgedian may have been suicidal when he entered the Panera Bread. As officers picked him up from the floor, a device fell out of his pocket.
That triggered an evacuation of the restaurant as well as the nearby Black Bear Diner, Applebee’s and Big Lots. A stretch of Shaw Avenue was shut down for the investigation.
Mazgedian told police the device was an explosive. Police officers from the Bomb Squad Unit were called and they, too, confirmed that the device was active. They deactivated the device inside the Panera Bread location before clearing the scene.
Mazgedian had told officers that another device was in his vehicle, but police did not find any other devices.
Hudson said Mazgedian has a suicidal history and police are investigating whether he intended to detonate the device inside the Panera Bread as a result. Mazgedian allegedly told police he was distraught and that he wanted to avoid going back to jail.
“He was going to either harm himself or harm officers ... he could have taken a life,” Hudson said.
Investigators have not disclosed how the explosive was made, but Mazgedian had not tried to explode it. Police released images of the device, showing red and white wires sticking out of a box wrapped in black tape. A piece of wood with a nail sticking out was also attached.
The incident raised concerns with police about security of businesses since Mazgedian was able to run into the restaurant.
“This is a dangerous person that we’re lucky to have now in custody with nobody being injured,” Hudson said.